Forgiving ourselves and others
ONE crisp fall morning I stood looking out at a grove of trees near our home. There was a calmness in the air. In that quiet setting I thought back to the previous spring when I had been teaching as an intern in an overcrowded high school under the supervision of a difficult and rigidly unforgiving faculty member. Our styles never meshed, and I became increasingly frustrated and frequently ill. At the end of the semester I received, unjustly I felt, a low grade for the entire period's work. I was resentful and angry. Who, I thought, looking at my transcript, would ever believe I could teach? How would I ever find a job in my field?
When I returned home from graduate school that summer, I was aware that peace of mind was much needed. I didn't dwell on the experience, but resentment lingered.
That fall morning I thought back to that teacher. I suddenly felt great compassion for this man who worked as best he could under difficult conditions. And just as immediately, all the anger, hurt, and bitterness of those months dissolved. I simply and finally forgave him.
This immediate change was not mystical but the natural result of all I had been taught about my inseparable relationship to a loving God. As a young child I had learned the Lord's Prayer, given to us by Christ Jesus. Part of it says, ``Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.''1 In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy2 gives what she understands to be the spiritual sense of those words. Referring to God as Love, she writes, ``And Love is reflected in love.''3
As we are willing to forgive, we are harmonizing with the purpose of divine Love. We are expressing something of the love that comes from God, which has inherent in it all the power of His ever-presence.
No matter how hard we struggle in our lives, no matter how angry we become, divine Love just doesn't let us go, and we can be blessed, through prayer, by its healing, transforming power. Turning to God in humble, heartfelt prayer, we feel the warmth of His tender presence. Such prayer lifts us above agitation. It brings harmony. It gives us the grace to forgive any who have wronged us. And this prayer provides the love to forgive ourselves, if necessary.
The power of God, felt and expressed, moves one out of a vengeful ``eye for an eye'' mentality into the spiritual core of Christianity: loving God and our fellowman. The need is to see beyond whatever behavior is difficult--through a growing, spiritual sense of God and man--to the intrinsic worth of the individual, to his true selfhood as God's likeness. The need is to value our own goodness as offspring of God.
This is forgiveness. It comes from our desire to love God and His creation, to care deeply for our fellow beings. It is sometimes demanding. But it is this great striving to love and to forgive that heals. And the expression of such love is natural to us, because man is the likeness of Love.
That day on the porch was a turning point. I soon was teaching regularly at a local college, working with high-school dropouts. I later taught at the college level, a career that has lasted in various ways for nearly twenty years. And the low grades were never an issue. The skill and qualities I brought to the work were fairly evaluated, and advancement took place.
An added blessing has been the ability to look back on that experience with balance, not anger. No, the internship wasn't well conceived or managed. But in those six months I learned much about my profession, lessons that have strength ened me. And all the forgiveness I came to feel has remained.
Reaching deep through prayer into our very source of love, to divine Love's blessing for us all, we can lift burdens. And in this gracious uplift of thought we are truly loving, truly cherishing ourselves and others as what we really are--God's beloved children. This is the very foundation of individual and universal peace.
1Matthew 6:12. 2The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 3Science and Health, p. 17. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Luke 6:37